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Defense can't make up for inept Seahawks offense

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RENTON, Wash. (AP)

Charlie Whitehurst played well enough two weeks ago in relief of injured starter Tarvaris Jackson that, for a bit, the debate about who should be the Seattle Seahawks' starting quarterback was rekindled.

Given a chance to start Sunday in Cleveland - just the third start in his career - Whitehurst put that debate to rest. And not in the way that benefited him.

''He was surprised that it was this difficult because he had played well before. He had done really well in the preseason and all the games he's been in he's done quite well,'' Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. ''So I think this is just what happens. It's rare that people play up the whole time particularly when you're starting at such a difficult spot.''

Seattle's offensive slog in Sunday's 6-3 loss wasn't among the worst performances in team history. It was the fewest combined points ever scored in a Seahawks game, but the 137 yards of offense actually didn't even crack Seattle's all-time top 12 for futility.

But Whitehurst didn't make the case many were wondering if he would: that he could be Seattle's best option even after Jackson returns from his pectoral injury.

With Seattle's defense putting in a yeoman's effort and stuck on the field for nearly 43 minutes, Whitehurst flopped in a completely winnable game. He threw for only 97 yards and connected on just 12 of 30 passes and seemed to make the point clear that a healthy Jackson is Seattle's best option.

For now, Whitehurst looks to be the starter this week against Cincinnati with the Seahawks unsure yet if Jackson will be ready.

''It was a hard go. I think that's the toughest time Charlie's had in the games he's played in,'' Carroll said. ''I know he didn't feel real good about it. He didn't feel as though he was seeing things as well as he would like and for whatever reason they did a nice job on him.''

Seattle was just 2 of 12 on third downs, ran only 50 plays on offense and only once out of 11 possessions gained more than 30 yards on a drive.

Not all of that was on Whitehurst. The Seahawks offense was limited with injuries to center Max Unger and Jackson, and then lost running back Marshawn Lynch during pregame warmups with back spasms.

But Whitehurst failed at his opportunities. None was bigger than a throw he actually completed, a 38-yard pass to Sidney Rice that set up Seattle's only points, a 20-yard field goal by Steven Hauschka. The throw to Rice was slightly off target and didn't allow Rice to stay in bounds for a potential touchdown.

''It was kind of a broken play and I scrambled and saw that he was open,'' Whitehurst said after Sunday's game. ''I don't know if I could have made a better throw or not. Obviously if I do, he probably stays inbounds.''

And Seattle probably wins.

There were other moments the Seahawks were lamenting on Monday. No moment was bigger than Leon Washington's 81-yard punt return that was called back for a questionable block in the back call against reserve defensive back Kennard Cox. Carroll said again Monday that the call should not have been made.

''There are a lot of calls happening at light speed out there that are challenging to call and that was one that, unfortunately, it was the play of the game for us,'' Carroll said. ''It was our touchdown in this game and it got away from us.''

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Follow Tim Booth on Twitter: http://twitter.com/ByTimBooth

Tagged: Seahawks, Tarvaris Jackson, Charlie Whitehurst, Sidney Rice

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